Friday, October 29, 2010

What Pleases Your Eyes?

This is my library, at the back of the first floor. It's what I see each time I walk up the stairs to the bedrooms or family room. It pleases me.

Every time I glance over into that room on the way up the stairs, I smile. My mind pauses from whatever race it's on and says, with awe and wonder, "This is my house!"

I often contemplate the elements of that room—in what way are those components coming together to please me so much?

I think the first element is color. Much as I almost always wear black so I can adorn it with some spectacular piece of jewelry or shibori'd jacket or hand-knitted scarf, this room with its ivory couch and loveseat and the mahogany leather bench are a canvas.

Wanna see the original couch and loveseat? This is one of the pieces I refer to as "legacy to the house". It remained after the previous owner's departure. See the cat-scratching on the front? It was a M*E*S*S! I took them over to Mark Shaw Upholstery in Girard. Mark did a fabulous job of reupholstering these pieces, and I absolutely love them!

So the ivory upholstery and the ivory rug from the mountain cottage and the leather bench form the cake, which is then iced with two mixed media pieces by Tucson artist Carol Thayer. Tossed over the back of the sofa is a throw I knit from a rayon/cotton tape yarn. This yarn started out to be a vest for me, but quickly let me know it would rather be a throw. And isn't it gorgeous in this environment?

This is a room for Sunday mornings with a cup of tea and the New York Times crosswords. This is a room for a glass of wine and tealights in those lovely glass holders. This is a room just right for pondering life.

I love this room!

So think about your environment. What pleases you? What do you love to stop and look at? What brings you joy each time you think about it?

(As long as we're walking backwards through the cobwebs of our minds, here are the two Carol Thaler pieces in their original home in Tucson. Isn't that a lovely room?!)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coming Up for Air

I'll bet you've been wondering where I've been (she mused, narcissistically).

This is what choristers refer to as "Hell Week". Tonight and Saturday night the CleveOrch Chorus will be performing Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Five Mystical Songs" and "Toward the Unknown Region". My week has been insane balancing work and singing, with nightly drives to Severance Hall. But I love every minute of it.

Along with working, driving and singing, yesterday and today I've been watching the installation of new windows in my kitchen and office. Yippee! Already I can hear the difference in the ambient noise, and feel the difference in the lack of drafts around the windows.

I chose Valley Energy Solutions, owned by Dan Quinlan, to provide and install the windows. The thing about having Dan do the job: energy efficiency is his thing. I knew he would do the absolute best job of insulating around the new windows—far better than Window World or the Pella or Andersen people. And the windows arrived at about three weeks before the projected delivery date. It's cold today, and I can live with it! I'll be very excited to see my fuel bills stabilize (rather than skyrocketing) as the temperatures drop.

I'll be back to the blog after the concerts are concluded. And we need to talk about "Eat, Pray, Love", which I've been "reading" as I drive back and forth to University Circle.

Eat. Love. Pray if you feel like it. I'll be back.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Debutante

Two posts today; none tomorrow.

The Jazzman and I are hosting our first-together dinner party tomorrow night. There will be ten around my heirloom table (heirloom: it came with the house). We were doing some preliminary planning last night and realized we needed to position the table cattywampus in the dining room to make everyone comfortable. (Did you know "cattywampus" is actually in the dictionary? It's an outgrowth of cater-cornered, but you knew that. You just didn't know the English language had deteriorated enough for "cattywampus" to make it into print!)

Now everyone knows I don't cook anymore, but I can make a mean lasagna when called upon to do so. It's easy, can be prepared ahead, and most everyone likes it. I rely upon Giada De Laurentiis's lasagna recipes, and make a pan of vegetarian lasagna and one of meat lasagna. We were thrilled last night to find Mt. Carmel Marinara Sauce in Giant Eagle. I'll be saving time and buying local!

Guests are bringing salad, appetizers, and desserts. The handyman/carpenter who brought my new office to fruition will be at the table and will, I'm sure, receive much praise. Jazz spent a couple of hours last evening polish beautiful antiques that have been ignored for far too long.

One of the guests forwarded the picture above to spur me on. The Jazzman commented last night that all the guests are cat people. At least we don't have to worry about having enough Benadryl on hand!

We're excited. (Well, that's easy for the woman to say. But once I sent out the e-mailed invitation and starting receiving responses, Jazzman actually said, "I'm excited!" Imagine that! A man eager to host a party!)

Today I'm working and cooking, with Hallowe'en costume alterations set for tonight. Tomorrow I'm cleaning and cooking—and ignoring the computer.

<My-Granddaughter-Is-Amazing Story On>
Last night my phone rang with Tyler's "Brenda and Eddie" ringtone. I answered with "Hey." There was a pause, then Miss Ridley's sweet voice came on the line. "Grandma," she started, "Next week for ballet class we can wear our Hallowe'en costumes. Would it be convenient for you to finish my costume before next Thursday?"

Convenient? What seven-year-old talks like that?!

<My-Granddaughter-Is-Amazing Story Off>

So while I'm preparing for the first dinner party in my almost-two-year-old home with my almost-roommate, how about sharing your favorite dish to prepare for guests?

Do You Care?

This morning, killing a few minutes while I work up my nerve to exit my warm bed, I was reading an old Carolyn Hax column in the WaPo. A reader had written to her about an inappropriate Christmas gift from a thoughtless spouse. Hax then posed the question? "What's the worst gift you ever received?"

One respondent talked about a husband's poor choice of actions surrounding a life-or-death situation. Having had so many husbands, this one started my mind wandering.

A thousand years ago, nine months into marriage number three, I spent four days in Columbia Hospital for Women in downtown Washington following a full hysterectomy. My husband and I lived in his home sixty miles west of the city. He took me to the hospital for the procedure and—I assume—stayed until I was out of recovery and back in my room. (On second thought, maybe he dropped and ran. When I picture sitting in the pre-op room, he's not in the picture. Hmmm.) He came back to visit a couple of days later, and then returned on the fourth day to take me home.

We had been married nine months, I was 43 years old, and I had just given up/lost/forfeited all my female innards (a big deal to any woman). And he could only come to the hospital once in four days to spend time with me. Hmmm.

I excused it away, saying it was too much driving for him. But, in reality, this was a man who had commuted 55 miles each way every weekday for over 15 years from his Virginia home to his Maryland office. There was no such thing as too much driving for him! (And yes, Longtime Readers, this is the man who said I was overreacting and refused to lock up the guns when his son threatened to shoot me. I repeat: Hmmm.)

All poorly-chosen gifts from loved ones pale in comparison to this egregious example of poorly-chosen actions. (Another husband's boxful of polyester clothing from K-Mart screeches to a halt in my memory.)

So, yes, your gift to your loved one says something about how much you care, but your treatment of him or her in times of need says far more.

Did I tell you the one about how I was lying on the floor with my feet on the chair, at doctor's orders, and he stepped over me to go to the refrigerator for a Coke? And couldn't be bothered to ask me if I wanted anything?

I guess I should be grateful he didn't insist I get up and go get him the Coke!

(And no, he didn't send flowers to my hospital room.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mutual Interests

The babes and I had the loveliest dinner last night with my friend Ypsi and her family. She is the first person I met all by myself when I moved to Youngstown. It was brrrr-winter in Northeast Ohio, and I had taken the kids to the mall to get rid of excess energy. Boston and Ridley found a kindred spirit in Ypsi's daughter, as I did with the mom.

She has been so kind and generous of spirit with me since the day we met. She invited me into her world—her book group, her knitting circle. I started knitting again, after 25 years, spurred on by watching her placidly knit socks during book discussions. I'm not up to socks yet, but her inspiration has given me a lot of joy with yarn and needles.

The picture above is my latest completed project—a twisted spiral scarf from the book One-Skein Wonders. It goes in the mail today to PianoLady.

Aren't friends with whom you share commonalities just the best? Last weekend PianoLady and I shared stories old and new. Last night Ypsi and I discussed our love of books and yarn and our families, along with some commonalities over enormous sorrows we've experienced.

Our meal at her home was not a fine-wine-and-damask meal. It was a Real Meal—real people, real food, real clutter. A real family living a life, getting through each day as it comes, and loving each other immensely.

I'll take real over fine-wine-and-damask any day!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Renovation Continues

Yesterday I relocated my wall of travel pictures from the downstairs hallway to the wall in my office. I love pausing to look at these photos and remembering where they were taken and what I was doing then.

In a perfect world, they'd all be in black frames, but they're not and that's the way it's gonna be.

Let's start at the bottom left and continue clockwise; here's a mini-travelogue.
  1. The Washington Chorus in St Louis en l'Ile Church (built in 1622) in Paris; June 2004

  2. A postcard I picked up in Rome of a small brown tabby cat sitting on the toe of a very large statue

  3. The 25th anniversary of Florida Epsilon chapter of Pi Beta Phi. The women pictured were all members of the local sorority, Tyes, founded in 1969 at what was then Florida Technological University. The three women on the right were charter members; I was a charter pledge. We stayed local for twelve years until just the right national fraternity came along.

  4. A watercolor of Market Square in Cirencester, England. The drawing prominently features "The Cathedral of the Cotswolds", St. John the Baptist Church, where The Washington Chorus sang the Vivaldi Gloria and the Fauré Requiem in 1996. I dearly loved the Cotswolds and hope to revisit someday.

  5. A photograph of umbrellas at a sidewalk café taken by fellow Washington Chorus singer, Wayne Guenther, in London on our Paris/England tour in 1996.

  6. In 1997, the family gathered in Las Vegas for T.J.'s wedding. Jaci, Greg, Tyler and I took a flightseeing tour over the Grand Canyon. One word: Wow!

  7. The newest photo: Cleveland Orchestra Chorus 2009-2010. Singing with this chorus is one of the greatest joys of my entire life.

  8. Venice, 2002. A watercolor of one of the canals in Venice. This was a concert tour for The Washington Chorus. My friend, Walu, and I went along just to enjoy the music and spend time with old friends.

The other grouping that is dear to my heart sits on the file cabinet. All these pictures were taken without my knowledge.

In the black frame is a photo of me with T.J. and Tyler, hiking a trail along Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I think the boys were about 9 and 11.

In the small gold frame is a photo from my law school graduation in May of 1990. Tyler was 15; T.J. was almost 17. Walu flew up from Texas for this memorable ceremony and walks alongside us. She had known the boys for ten years at that time.

The photo in the silver frame was snapped by the brilliant Pittsburgh photographer, Kim Reed, last year when she did a photo shoot of Tyler and Jaci and the kids. I'm walking hand-in-hand with my darling grandchildren, just as I did with their father and uncle many years earlier.

I hope you enjoyed this walk through my history as much as I enjoyed recounting the events.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Fun Continues

Installation #2 of the 2010 Broadway Travelogue

On Saturday, PianoLady and I decided to begin our day with the same restaurant where we had enjoyed dinner on Friday evening, Saju Bistro on 44th, across from the better-known Cafe Un Deux Trois. The breakfast was delightful. We both love all-things-French, so this was a great way to begin our full day together. We both ordered the Omelet Bistro, filled with ham and cheese, and accompanied by a wedge of hash brown potatoes and a small salad.

After breakfast, we walked around the corner onto Broadway to Sephora, where I picked up some Clinique cosmetics, and then to Quiksilver, where PL selected a couple of shirts for her twin sons. We walked back to the hotel for a few minutes before heading to the theatre.

"Promises, Promises" was first produced on Broadway from 1968 through 1972, back when PL and I were majoring in piano and starting our married lives. In other words, a thousand years ago. Based on the movie, "The Apartment", the book is by Neil Simon, and the score is by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. I have long been a Dionne Warwick fan, and was very familiar with her covers of the Bacharach/David tunes.

Reading our program books, we were sad to learn we wouldn't get to see Kristen Chenoweth, but her understudy, Sarah Jane Everman, did a great job in the role. Sean Hayes also did a wonderful job as Chuck Baxter, and I loved his repartee with the audience when he heard Fran Kubelik saying what he wanted to hear rather than what she really said. Hayes's body languages and, especially, use of his eyes to make a point were terrific.

As with the previous night's performance of "West Side Story", the choreography and dancing were exquisite. The opening number with office chairs and rolling coat racks was simply fabulous.

PianoLady and I were seated on the second row, and when I leaned forward, I had a great view of the face of the music director, Phil Reno. I don't believe I have ever seen a director appear to enjoy every note of a play as much as Reno did. He was a joy to observe, as well as a very musical conductor.

As we were leaving the theatre, PL and I felt we had chosen our entertainment very wisely for this trip.

(I almost forgot to mention Molly Shannon, as Marge MacDougall, who was out-of-this-world funny—as she always is! What a treat to see her up close and personal.)

After the show, we wandered a little, going into Colony Music for a few purchases, An American Craftsman for a few oohs and ahhs, and Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe to rest our feet while enjoying a glass of wine. Then PL went into the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store and I stuck my nose in the Lego store to marvel at all the colors and sizes. A quick trip into Anthropologie preceded our walk down to our traditional Saturday dinner place, Cafe Un Deux Trois.

We enjoyed crepes and creme brulee and a long leisurely dinner where we retold stories of old that each of us had forgotten about the other. Too soon we were finished, tired, and ready to retire after a long busy day.

Sunday dawned early, as PL had to get back to Westchester County to her church job. In past years, she's been able to take this Sunday off so we could wander the City until early afternoon. A special event at the church required her performance, so she headed for Grand Central, and I snuggled back into bed to watch a movie on pay-per-view.

A little googling let me know there was a 5th floor yarn shop near Grand Central Station. After packing up my belongings, I grabbed a cab and bought myself a couple of treats. Then I headed for LaGuardia and my flight home.

Where previous years' trips have been packed with activity and energy from moment one through moment n, this trip was much lower-key. Actually, I think it was just what we both needed. We've been friends for 41 years, both turned 60 this summer, and this trip perfectly suited two ladies who are attempting to age gracefully!

Key to photos:
1. The Broadway Theatre, where we enjoyed "Promises, Promises"
2. Colony Music, where we go each year to buy music that's almost impossible to find elsewhere.
3. The Zamboni, preparing the ice at Rockefeller Center for the waiting skaters.
4. The Lego store across from the skating rink, with bins of Legos in every imaginable color and size.
5. Cafe Un Deux Trois, 123 44th St.
6. Gotta Knit!, 14 E. 34th, 5th floor

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Auspicious Beginnings

Installation #1 of the 2010 Broadway Travelogue

Left home in Youngstown a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., headed for Cleveland Hopkins. Stopped for gas and the Chase drive-through to deposit a check for work. Then hopped on westbound I-80 and started the 75-mile drive to CLE. Ran into S'bux for mocha and pumpkin bread, and then turned on the audio book of "Eat, Pray, Love".

Why CLE? Why not PIT? I like flying out of either PIT or CAK, as they're easy to get to. At CAK, I don't feel I have to stick to the two-hour window, as parking and security are always easy to navigate. But when I made these reservations, I knew I had a Sunday night rehearsal with CleveOrchChorus in Beachwood, so I scheduled the flight with just enough time to get to the Fairmount Temple after arrival. Earlier this week our Sunday rehearsal was cancelled, so now I had a Cleveland flight for no reason. Oh well. At least I'll get home at 5:00 or so, instead of 11:15!

I had not planned to schlep my laptop along, but a last-minute client request came in on Thursday afternoon, so I had lots of pictures to post and pages to update on a retail Web site. As I approached security, I carefully removed my laptop and phone and placed them in the gray bin. Proud of being so thorough, I walked through the scanner and waited for my bag. Oops. The screener lady pulled my bag off the belt and asked, "Did you forget your liquids?" Yep, I forgot my liquids.

Wanting to travel light and not check a bag, I had very carefully consolidated everything to one bag. All my carefully-packed weekend-on-Broadway clothes, my boots carefully tucked into flannel bags, my jewelry stashed in a mesh pocket. Yep, all pulled out and placed on the counter. Crap!

Liquids removed, bag scanned again, the TSA agent asked if I'd like to repack it myself. "Yes!!!!!" And as she walked away, she said, "Next time, if you'll remove your liquids, it will go through." Well, just talk to me like I'm an imbecile!

I made my way to the gate, found an electric outlet, and sat down to get as much work done as I could in the hour I had to wait, but the wireless signal was not strong at all (or too many people were killing time on Facebook!) so I only got about three pages updated in that hour.

The gate agent called the flight, I stowed everything, and took my little single window seat on the Embraer RJ135. I pulled out my knitting and tucked my bag under the seat. The door closed, we pushed back, prepared to taxi, and then the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said LaGuardia had put a hold on us because of 50 mph wind gusts over NYC. Finish the row; stuff knitting back in bag; pull laptop out; turn on tethering on iPhone; try to get more work done for 45 minutes. But my electronics were not cooperating. I could not get tethering to work, but could get the weakest of signals from the terminal. I updated one page in 45 minutes.

LaGuardia finally cleared us. Shove laptop back in bag; pull out knitting again. Lovely flight while finishing a scarf for PianoLady and listening to several chapters of "Eat, Pray, Love". As we approached Manhattan, we had to circle as all flights, landing and taking off, were using the same runway. We flew up the East River, up the coast of Connecticut almost to New Haven, then circled and flew over the mansions of the north shore of Long Island before approaching LGA and landing. Wow! I love flying and looking down at the world, and this was a real treat!

Next comes the perfunctory stuff: stand in line for a cab, ride into the city, update Facebook, check into the hotel.

PianoLady and I always stay at the Marriott Marquis. I use my points, and the desk staff always make over my Silver Elite status when I arrive. For the past four or five years, they've given me a corner or next-to-corner room overlooking Times Square. Each year I'm a couple floors higher than the previous year.

As I handed the young man my ID and credit card and he pulled up my record, there was a distinct lack of making-over-me. He asked, "Would you like to upgrade your room to a minisuite? There's a king bed and a pull-out sofa and it's only $50 per night extra." "No, thank you," I politely answered. I'm a heterosexual woman traveling with my heterosexual woman friend, and neither of us wants to sleep on the couch or share the king bed. I didn't say all that, but I sure thought it! Well, then, he continued, would I like to upgrade to a full suite. I replied, "You always give me a corner room, so I don't want to upgrade." "The corner rooms are all sold out," he responded. Yeah, right. My instinct says Marriott is just trying to increase their profit.

I declined all upgrades, got my room key, and headed up to the 41st floor, where I found my room to be in the center of the building, looking out on the office building next door. Bummed, pissed, and generally demoralized, I dropped my stuff and headed downstairs to find something to eat.

I was determined not to let this disappointment ruin my weekend, but also quickly realized this would probably be the last year PianoLady and I would stay at the Marriott Marquis.

Back in the room after a cup of split pea soup and a half an egg salad sandwich, I worked on the client Web site while waiting for PianoLady. When she arrived, having already heard by phone of my disappointment, she looked out the window and said, "But we can see the river." Ah, yes, there is brightness to this room. We can see the Hudson River. I'll shut up about my disappointment.

I worked until the last possible moment, called my boss to give him the status update, changed my clothes, and we set out for dinner. PL's neighbor works in the city and we always have Friday evening dinner with her. She had chosen Saju Bistro, across the street from Cafe Un Deux Trois, for our dinner location. We had a wonderful dinner, flirting with wait staff and Maitre d' in three languages. (I had warm goat cheese tarts and tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella. Yum. We shared profiteroles and lemon tart with passion fruit sorbet for dessert. Double Yum.)

Saying good-bye to PL's neighbor, we set out for the Palace Theatre, where we had tickets to see "West Side Story."

Let me reiterate that PL and I are both musicians, and we love our Broadway musicals. Love, love, love! And this production of "West Side Story" did not disappoint!

From the orchestra's opening note to the final applause for the orchestra at the very end, the show was a complete and absolute thrill. Our seats? Second row. I could watch the facial expressions of the conductor. I could see the spit from Tony's mouth as he sang. The dancing was impeccable. IMPECCABLE! The singing was fabulous - not a "pitchy" moment. The electricity between Tony and Maria was palpable. The set and lighting were brilliant! For the rumble scene under the bridge, when the chain link fence came down to separate the stage from the audience, and the bridge set slid into place, you would swear you were under a bridge. It was absolutely inspired!

As each song began, a thrill welled up within me. As hard as I'm trying, I'm at a loss for words to tell you how wonderful this production was. I kept thinking maybe we should go stand in the ticket lottery line on Saturday morning to try to get $25 tickets for the Saturday night performance to see it again.

The dance scenes were so well-choreographed and well-executed, I could have had sixteen eyes in my head and all the synapses to process all the signals, and still not have been able to catch everything that was happening on stage.

It. Was. Fabulous!

<Pause to breathe>

All too soon the curtain came down. PL bought her requisite magnet at the gift counter, and we headed back to the hotel. We kept regaling each other with our impressions of the show until I just had to turn over and close my eyes.

Day one of the 2010 Girls' Broadway Weekend: A complete success.

Saturday: Wandering through shops, "Promises, Promises", and Cafe Un Deux Trois.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On Growing Up

Last night was dinner-with-Grandma night. The babes and I were sitting in Cafe Cimmento waiting for our dinners to arrive. Boston volunteered, "I felt very responsible the other day." I looked at him with a question in my eyes. He continued, "Daddy gave me $5 and told me to go into the store and get a gallon of 2% milk. He said he thought [the label] was blue and I found the milk with the blue label." He reiterated, "I felt responsible."

Nine going on 25. Just like his daddy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Around the Corner, Across the Street

Today is Wednesday. On Friday I fly to NYC.

While PianoLady and I are trying to keep hold of our excitement level, you can click on the "Broadway" label at the bottom of this post to read most of the posts I've written about past Broadway weekends.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Daddy's Girl

I found this photo in one of Mother's boxes. This was taken, I believe, in 1956 when Daddy opened his new medical office on Hillcrest Avenue in Orlando. Can you feel the devotion between Daddy and me? Palpable!

How to Paint Your Floor

I totally love the floor in my office. I can't believe I did something that came out looking like that. The Jazzman deserves 90% of the credit, as he did all the prep work, after I sanded the floor, and applied the polyurethane after I did the faux finish.

More than that, as I was asphyxiating myself with the glaze, he realized what was happening and saved me from death-by-chemicals—and from myself!

I got this idea on an episode of Trading Spaces that was shot in Orlando, where one couple painted the other couple's nasty old flooring.

Here's my nasty old flooring. This is the bathroom floor. The flooring in the office was the same pattern, but in a 1930s or 1940s blue-green that was stained, tired, and needed to go buh-bye.

I sanded, then deglossed the vinyl. The Jazzman taped the trim, laid down two or three coats of primer, then a couple of base coats of beige. Then I was going to sponge a taupe glaze. I had bought a cool sponge-on-a-mitt, but couldn't figure out how to make it work. I remembered when I ragged off the glaze on Boston's nursery with Jaci nine years ago, and started doing a similar process on the wet glaze. When that dried, I touched up a few places, then Jazzman applied two coats of polyurethane and touched up the trim. What's not obvious is 24-48-72 hours curing after each coat. So the whole process took several weeks, but is totally and completely worth every bit of effort.

If you're thinking you'd like to do the same thing to one of your floors, here's the process on

Here's another scene of the final result.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ta-Dah! The New Office

In May, I left my office job where I spent over two hours a day driving to and from work. My new job enabled me to work from my home.

I moved all my sewing things from the small bedroom back to the basement, and erected a folding table and small computer table in the new office, which had been painted many years ago to an institutional blue green yuck color. The heavy old double-hung windows were painted shut. A heavy metal rolling cart from the basement became the bookshelf. I sit with a view out over the vacant lot next door, which my neighbors, Jean and Marilyn, have landscaped to the hilt. As I work, I glance out and watch squirrels and birds cavorting.

My Really Good Man (RGM) decided I needed a new office if I was going to work from home and sit in this space all day every day. See if you agree:

RGM started with thinking I needed a deep, rich color for the walls, similar to the lovely deep colors my brother used in his mountain house. Then he said we should go to Star Supply and get a countertop. He started talking to Tom, an acquaintance who is a retired contractor/jack-of-all-trades. When they started talking about mitering the corner of the counter, they decided to place a large square of wood in the corner and run the counter off both sides of that wood. Then he started talking to Tom about building a bookcase at the end of the counter.

The floor was an ugly, ugly sheet vinyl, circa 1927. I watched an episode of Trading Spaces, where the homeowners painted the sheet vinyl floor. We googled "How to paint sheet vinyl" and found the instructions on RGM did most of the work on the floor, but I did the faux finish, while nearly asphyxiating myself on the chemicals in the glaze. RGM did all the painting—the walls, trim, bookcase, and bathroom. Look at that trimwork in the bathroom! The man is a genius!

We looked at rugs at Home Depot and Lowe's on Wednesday night, then on Thursday I went around the corner (shop local!) to a little rug store on Belmont owned by some Palestinians. There we found a beautiful rug at a very affordable price. The rug will keep the floor warmer, and will hide the inevitable cat throw-up that's sure to come its way.

The gallery of photos from travel—mostly abroad—that was in the hall downstairs will go on the wall to the right of the bathroom door. Diplomas will go in on the green wall in the corner. Once I move the rolling cart back to the basement, a comfortable guest chair will go into the space occupied by the cart.

New double-hung fiberglass windows have been ordered and will arrive in about four weeks. Two weeks later they'll be installed, and this will be the warmest room in the house.

And my new office will be done!

See what you think of the result:

The window overlooks the "garden". The basket for Angel is in place beside it.Beautiful bookcase, custom made for the space.

Don't you just want to wrap that green around yourself?

And look at the trimwork in the bathroom!

The view from the bathroom back into the office.

The Guardian overlooking the office.

How about that floor? I love it! And don't you love the rug? Isn't it perfect for this space?This is the gorgeous square of wood, put into place to get around a mitered corner.

Many thanks to Tom for hard work and good ideas on the new office. And mega-thanks to the Jazzman, my RGM, for conceiving the idea and bringing it to fruition.

A final note about the first photo on the post. This Native American figurine is named the Guardian. He guards his family and his home, and yours too. This cool guy was a gift from Tyler and Jaci when I was again newly single in 2003 and all alone in my new house. They found him to help take care of me. And look where we are now!!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Pulling My Heartstrings

After writing yesterday about all the shows PianoLady and I had seen, I've been thinking about the songs that just wring my heart out when I hear them.

I was listening to the "On Broadway" channel on Sirius/XM when "Wheels of a Dream" from "Ragtime" came on. That music grabs me every time I hear it.

From "Light in the Piazza", I feel melancholy when I hear "Dividing Day" and melt at "Say It Somehow".

"For Good" from "Wicked" makes me think of every life-changing friend I've known, while "What Is This Feeling?" and "Popular" make me laugh out loud.

There are similar songs for me from "Les Miz" and "Phantom" and "Oliver" and "Funny Girl" and … and …. Yes, I have had a lifelong love affair with Broadway musicals.

But there are movements from classical works that affect me similarly. Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony and the Enigma Variations and the Brahms Requiem and the Fauré Requiem and ….

You get the idea. I've been a musician all my life. Before and after everything else, I am a musician. And music moves me.

Does music move you? Or what substitutes for music in your life?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

On Broadway

PianoLady and I are counting the days until we meet at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan for our annual Broadway Weekend. We have now been friends and piano duet partners since 1969. That's 41 years of having a friend you could say anything to and receive unconditional acceptance in return, and one who could play a mean Primo to your Secondo. Pretty darned good.

For your humming pleasure, here's the list of shows we've attended and (mostly) loved:


"The Music Man"; "Kiss Me, Kate"

"42nd Street" (We had tickets before 9/11, and PianoLady took two of her daughter's friends along in my stead.)

"29th Annual Putnam Co. Spelling Bee";"Light in the Piazza"

"Wicked"; "Spamalot"

"Grease"; "The Drowsy Chaperone"

"South Pacific"

"Burn the Floor"; "Next to Normal"

"Promises, Promises"; "West Side Story"

In looking back, I absolutely loved "Ragtime", "The Music Man", Spelling Bee, "Light in the Piazza", "Wicked", and "Next to Normal". I would see any of those again, except maybe "Next to Normal", which was rather intense. I have the soundtracks to Piazza and "Wicked" on my iPod and listen to them frequently. My grandchildren know all the words to all the songs in "Wicked"—I can't wait to take them for that experience!

We did not enjoy "Spamalot", and when I told that to Tyler, he said, "I could have told you you wouldn't like it." We've taken to asking him ahead of time whether we should see certain plays. We skipped "Spring Awakenings" based on his recommendation.

"Burn the Floor" was good, but I didn't love it. I want to be able to go home at the end of the weekend and brag to my friends, "You won't believe the fabulous show I saw this weekend."

"The Drowsy Chaperone" was a surprise enjoyment. We couldn't figure out what else to see, and wanted to fit in a second show, so went to that and laughed uproariously.

I've already downloaded the soundtrack to "Promises, Promises" and can't wait to see Kristin Chenoweth on stage.

Oh, the number of days? Nine!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

My Life in a Quote

When single adults over, oh, fifty start spending more time together and morph from dating to a relationship, they start spending more time in each other's spaces. And they have to get used to the way each other lives.

I'm a visual person. I have to see something to be able to remember it. It only took me about fifty years to learn that about myself! I can have an object—a stapler, a favorite necklace, a ruler—in an obscure resting place, but if I've laid eyes on it in the past twelve weeks, I can lay my hands on it within three stops. It may not be your ideal organizational scheme, but it's mine.

Similarly, if I have something that I don't know what to do with, it can sit in the same spot for weeks until I no longer see it when I pass that location.

So as the Jazzman started spending more time in my house, he would ask me for a measuring tape or a screwdriver. When I pointed him to the bottom drawer in the dining room or the top drawer in the breakfront, he would look at me like I was absolutely crazy. He'd ask why I stored something in that odd location, and I'd just shrug.

When I saw today's Daily Thought from Real Simple magazine, I knew I had to share it.

“One person’s mess is merely another person’s filing system.”

― Margo Kaurman

Postscript: I will confess that the Jazzman is moving in one t-shirt at a time. And as he accumulates more of his possessions over here, he brings more organization to the space. He's actually quite amazing in his ability to leave order in his wake. I may give up my most unique filing system in favor of his organizational abilities!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Tote that Score, Lift that Voice

Last night was the first rehearsal of the new season for the full Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. What a thrill to sit down again with these talented musicians, many of whom have become friends over the past year.

This is the beginning of my second season with the chorus, and I love every minute of the experience: every minute of driving 75 or so miles to get to rehearsal; every minute of sitting totally focused for almost three hours; and especially the result: every minute standing on stage in the magnificent Severance Hall.

For me, singing under the baton of Robert Porco is a singular experience. (Pun not intended! "Singular" is defined as "remarkable". But in this case, it does have to do with singing!)

I sang for many years with one of the premier choruses in Washington, DC. Then, after some personal trauma, I switched to a different chorus. I lasted three rehearsals before I had to quit. One of the conductors would rehearse the chorus until they couldn't sing the work wrong. The other conductor would rehearse the chorus until they could do it right. Doing something right once or twice is nothing like being unable to do it wrong. On the social aspect, rehearsals with one chorus were likened to attending a weekly Polish wedding. The other was known as a somber no-nonsense let's-get-back-to-the-music organization.

Now I'm not going to identify which of those choruses was which on either the music or the sociability. But—to me—Cleveland Orchestra Chorus is the best of both worlds. Every member I've met has been warm and open and welcoming. And Porco strives to rehearse us until we can't "do it" wrong.

What an honor to be accepted into this organization, and to keep learning and growing as a musician.

If you're in Youngstown, come to Powers this Saturday night to hear us sing with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. I know there's been a slight overdose of Carmina Burana lately, but this chorus's performance will be unlike any you heard earlier this year.

Hope to see you there.

Photo credit:

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Garage Sale as Social Media

I had a garage sale today.

I had a garage sale once before. The previous garage sale was in 1999. Tyler and Jaci had moved in with me after my husband died; nine months had passed, and we were getting ready to move to new abodes. We posted signs, set our stuff on tables in the front yard, and watched as the sky opened up. It poured! We quickly moved all our stuff to the small front porch, where shoppers had to suck their respective guts in to get around each other while viewing our valuable goodies without getting soaked by the rain.

Shortly after I set up my wares, I was hit with a migraine. A big, full aura, pain dripping out my ears migraine. My girlfriend had come over to check out the goods for sale, bringing her three-year-old nonstop-movement daughter. I sat in a dark room, listening while she chatted, and holding my aching head in my hands.

Tyler and Jaci held down the fort on the front porch, answering questions and taking money. All I wanted was to be left alone.

"What are these?" "How to you use this?" "How much do you want for these sunglasses?"

They carefully answered all the questions as well as they could given the fact that they were monitoring my goods as well as their own.

After a couple of hours, my girlfriend took her young daughter and prepared to leave. She looked around, dug through her purse, and asked, "Where are my Prada sunglasses?" After retracing her steps through the house, she decided she just had to go without her sunglasses. I promised to return them as soon as I found them.

A few days later, Tyler and Jaci looked at me during dinner and said, "You remember those glasses your friend was looking for?" I nodded. They laughed self-conciously and said, "We sold them. We didn't know they were hers. Someone wanted them and we sold them."

We've been laughing about those sunglasses for years now!

Today the garage sale became a good opportunity for me to meet neighbors I had never met in the 21 months I've been living here.

I do hate garage sales, but I welcomed the opportunity to make some new friends today.